“Who among us is not in want of a single man of a large fortune?” –Elizabeth Bennet, A Favorite Daughter
Last month, I shared an excerpt from Chapter One of my current work-in-progress, A Favorite Daughter, here at Austen Authors. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the next chapter!
A moment or two passed before Fitzwilliam Darcy ascended the stairs of his friend Charles Bingley’s home.
Despite Charles’s being one of his closest friends, Darcy rarely called at Bingley’s and with good reason. He would do anything to avoid spending time in company with Bingley’s younger sister, Miss Caroline Bingley.
Now there he stood and at the young lady’s behest, no less, by means of a trusted servant. She would not say what was the nature of her summons, only that it was of the utmost importance, and it involved Bingley’s entire future. As Bingley was always getting himself into one poorly conceived scheme or another, Darcy dropped all he was doing and made his way there.
“Darcy, my friend,” said Bingley, bolting from his chair, when Darcy was shown into the drawing-room. “You are just the person whom I wished to see.”
“You are just the person we all wished to see,” exclaimed Miss Bingley, no doubt speaking on behalf of her brother-in-law and her elder sister, Reginald and Louisa Hurst, who were sitting on the sofa opposite her.
Arising to her feet, Miss Bingley hurried across the room and seizing Darcy by his arm, began coaxing him farther into the room. “It is imperative you speak with my brother, Charles, about what he has done before it is too late!”
“Pay no attention to my sister,” said Bingley. “No doubt, once you have heard my news, you will be joining me in a congratulatory toast to my good fortune.”
That what was considered positive by Bingley was viewed as negative by Miss Bingley came as no surprise to Darcy. The opposing nature of the two often balanced each other out and allowed the two siblings to coexist together peacefully. What Bingley appreciated most about his sister was her wit, and she, in turn, lauded his amiability. Problems arose when Miss Bingley supposed her concerns for her brother’s welfare were being dismissed, and she looked to tamper her brother’s excessive optimism.
In response, Bingley was wont to grow impatient with what he believed was his sister’s negativity and attempt to restrain him. This was one such a time.
Darcy knew the siblings too well to dismiss either of their concerns out of hand by siding with one over the other. On the other hand, Bingley was nothing if not impulsive. The older of the two gentlemen, Darcy had been obliged to rescue his friend from quite a few quandaries owing to the younger man’s flightiness.
“Come, have a seat,” Bingley urged. “I shall tell you everything.”
“Yes,” Miss Bingley added. “You will want to be seated when you hear this.”
Bingley rolled his eyes. “As usual, Caroline is overreacting.”
“Who that knows you as well as I do could help but feel the way I do!” She looked at her sister. “Louisa is just as concerned as I am, are you not?”
Louisa’s expression was unreadable, which also came as no surprise to Darcy. Despite always being a staunch supporter of whatever scheme the younger sister concocted, the elder sister did not like finding herself in the middle of disagreements between her siblings. She said nothing.
“Again,” Darcy said after taking a seat closest to Bingley, “what have you done?”
Returning to his own seat, Bingley cleared his throat. “Well, you know that my excellent father always intended to purchase an estate.”
Indeed, Darcy knew the story well. Bingley had inherited property to the amount of nearly a hundred thousand pounds from his father, who, as his friend cited, had intended to purchase an estate, but did not live to do it.
“I have just returned from Hertfordshire,” said Bingley in concluding his speech.
“You are looking at the new owner of a long uninhabited estate in some godforsaken part of the country just outside of some small town of which no one has ever heard,” Miss Bingley exclaimed.
Darcy caught his breath. Dear God, pray Bingley has not been duped!
Darcy dared not voice such a concern out loud. Bingley had the right to spend his fortune in whatever manner he might choose. But he had seen his friend mere days prior, and there had been no mention whatsoever of such grandiose plans.
“Trust me, Darcy, the situation is hardly as dire as Caroline makes it sound.”
“Who in the world would purchase an estate on a whim? Who would forgo an exhaustive search of all the other properties to be seen before entering into such an endeavor and without proper counsel, and most of all, who would purchase an estate in the middle of nowhere?” Miss Bingley cried. “Can you really expect our friends and acquaintances from town to travel to the wilds of Hertfordshire for visits?” She peered at Darcy. “Surely you agree with me. Surely you have the same questions.”
Sitting on the edge of his seat, his spine straight, Darcy said, “I must confess to wanting to know more.”
Bingley said, “It is not as though I did not consider such things. It is just that I took one look at the place, and I knew I was destined to be its master. That said, I did exercise some caution. You see, rather than make an offer to purchase the estate, I decided to let it instead.”
That last detail must have been news to Miss Bingley. Her face gradually contorted from wariness to relief.
Darcy released his breath. “Does the estate have a name?”
Bingley nodded. “The name of the estate is Netherfield Park. And the unheard-of town that Caroline spoke of so dismissively is Meryton. I daresay it is roughly the size of Lambton.”
The young woman scoffed. “Next, I suppose you will be comparing Netherfield Park to Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s home.”
“Netherfield Park is no Pemberley by any stretch of the imagination, but it is perfect for me.” Directing his attention to Darcy, he continued, “I can hardly wait to show it to you. I am counting on you to be my guest, and as my closest and most trusted friend, I am hoping you will teach me all there is to know about the management of such an estate.”
Between Bingley and Darcy, there was a very steady friendship, in spite of great opposition of character. Indeed, Darcy found Bingley’s easiness, openness, and ductility of his temper to be most endearing—a disposition which offered a pronounced contrast to Darcy’s own. The older man was clever, reserved, and fastidious, and his manner, though well-bred, were not inviting.
On the strength of Darcy’s regard, Bingley had the firmest reliance, and of his judgment, the highest opinion. This was all the more reason for Darcy’s concern that Bingley had taken on the responsibility of an estate, even if it was meant to be temporary.
Bingley’s situation, though impetuously conceived, is salvageable.
Leaning forward, Darcy extended his hand to his friend. “Bingley, you know I will do whatever I can to be of service to you.”
“Capital!” Bingley exclaimed, accepting his friend’s show of support. “I plan to return to Netherfield as soon as the manor house is properly situated. Pray, you will be among my party. I really do not think I will enjoy this new adventure half so much as I might unless you are by my side.”
Spoiler Alert! One of the people in the room will not be among the party heading to Netherfield Park. Can you guess which one?
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